Planned Parenthood of Michigan files lawsuit to maintain right to abortion

Lawsuit hopes to block enforcement of Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban if Roe v. Wade is revoked

FILE - Stephen Parlato of Boulder, Colo., holds a sign that reads "Hands Off Roe!!!" as abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Dec. 1, 2021, in Washington, as the court hears arguments in a case from Mississippi, where a 2018 law would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, well before viability. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) (Andrew Harnik, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

With the future of abortion rights uncertain amid an impending Supreme Court ruling, Planned Parenthood of Michigan and an abortion provider are filing a lawsuit in an effort to protect abortion access in the state.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in the court case known as Roe v. Wade, effectively protecting the right to have an abortion without excessive government restrictions. The high court will soon rule on an abortion ban out of Mississippi, and justices will have the opportunity to revoke Roe v. Wade if they so choose.

If the federal ruling is revoked, individual states will once again set the rules for abortion access in their jurisdictions. In Michigan, there is a law on the books from the 1930s that would ban most abortions. This law was superseded by the federal ruling, but if the local law takes effect again, prosecutors could enforce it — which would “abruptly cut off access to essential health care for millions of Michiganders,” a press release reads Thursday.

Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Michigan abortion provider Dr. Sarah Wallet on Thursday filed a lawsuit in hopes of preventing the 1931 law from being enforced. The lawsuit specifically seeks an immediate court order restraining Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel from “enforcing the unconstitutional ban against abortion providers,” the press release said.

The lawsuit argues that Michigan’s abortion ban from 1931 “violates the rights to liberty, bodily integrity, equal protection, and privacy under the Michigan Constitution and state civil rights laws, and that the law is unconstitutionally vague.”

Last year, Nessel said that she would not enforce the states abortion ban if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Related: Closer look: How laws, new and old, could restrict abortion rights in Michigan

Democrats have previously attempted to repeal the 1931 law, but that effort has been blocked by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called on the Michigan Legislature in 2021 to repeal the law, but no action has been taken to do so.

“We believe that the right to access abortion care is already protected in the Michigan Constitution, and we’re asking the court to affirm that through this suit,” said Deborah LaBelle, lead counsel for Planned Parenthood of Michigan. “Michiganders have the right to privacy, bodily integrity, and civil rights protections, all of which encompass accessing basic reproductive health care, including abortion. There is no room for any gray area on the fundamental right to bodily integrity and the ability for every person to decide their futures for themselves.”

The lawsuit, backed by the ACLU, comes on the same day that Gov. Whitmer files a similar lawsuit seeking to protect abortion rights in Michigan. The governor is asking the state supreme court to recognize a right to abortion under the state constitution and overturn the 1931 law banning most abortions.

More: Michigan governor sues to secure abortion rights, vacate ban

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.